Between 4 000 - 5 000 people attended a rally in support of Israel, hosted by the South African Zionist Federation last Sunday at the Albow campus in Cape Town
Participants included leadership and members of the Jewish community, people of all ages, and a variety of South Africans, particularly those from the Christian community. The turnout was so large that about 500 people could not be accommodated inside the campus.
Chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), Luigi Bonfig, was the MC of the peaceful yet spirited rally, and his youthful enthusiasm matched that of the crowd, which included many members of SAUJS, Bnei Akiva and Habonim.
Representing the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) Cape Council, Daniel Levitt told the crowd that they were “representing millions - and you are making it known that Israel lives and endures in the hearts and minds of all South Africans”.
Levitt added that the SAZF planned to implement a new “BDS” campaign: encouraging the buying, supporting and developing of Israeli products.
Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein in a powerful address said that he was very moved to see the South African Police Service (SAPS) ensuring the security of the event and he thanked the Cape Metro as well as the South African government for protecting the rally. However, he also emphasised that “it is our constitutional democratic right to support Israel and the IDF”.
Rabbi Goldstein spoke about the term in the Gemarah “Olam Hafuch”, meaning an “upside down world”, and addressed the 500 Jews who had signed a petition printed in a Sundaypaper. “Go to Gaza and try build a shul there and you will be murdered for being a Jew. It is definitely an ‘upside down world’.”
He emphasised that the loss of one innocent life was a tragedy and that Israel and Diaspora Jewry were pained at the death of any Israeli and Palestinian civilian. However, he added that “the blame for the Palestinian loss of life is on Hamas” and he placed the terrorist organisation in the same category as Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and ISIS.
Rabbi Goldstein concluded by saying: “The legitimacy of Israel is not on any declaration or UN resolution, it is because G-d gave it to Avraham when he said ‘Lech Lecha’!” He prayed for all in the region to be blessed with peace.
Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, described growing up in Cape Town and attending Herzlia, which instilled a strong Zionist identity in him.
He discussed the difficulty of being in a “Catch 22” situation of doing the right thing, even if this meant Israel losing friends. Rabbi Mirvis described how anti-Semitism in Europe was currently at its height since the Second World War and also told how a recent Hamas manual described the Israeli army as a moral one. “They recognise us as this!” he exclaimed.
Representing the Christian community, Luba Mayekiso reflected on the Jewish contribution to the struggle in South Africa: “Sixty per cent of Treason Trial accused were Jews. All classified white at the Rivonia Trial were Jews.” He added: “Christians cannot be bystanders; the continent of Africa has always stood with Israel. Victory is certain - it is written in the heavens.”
Addresses by David Breakstone of the World Zionist Organisation; Zev Krengel of the National SAZF; Gary Eisenberg of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies; and Reverend Barry Isaacs and Chris Eden of the Christian community, all brought words of encouragement. Eisenberg particularly thanked the CSO for their efforts and Krengel stated: “We will always defend our state and will always have one hand open for peace. Am Yisrael Chai!”
Musical interludes from the “Eagles Rising” choir, the Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation and Choni G, added to the atmosphere of strength and solidarity; and the rally ended with renditions of the South African and Israeli anthems.